Thursday, June 09, 2005
Red light cameras going up in Dallas burbs
Photo: Dallas Morning News
This was inevitable.
The Dallas News reports that Rowlett, a Dallas suburb, is following the lead of Garland to begin giving tickets to red light runners using traffic cameras, after the Legislature failed to ban the practice in the wake of a sneak change in the law in 2003.
That year, the Texas House resoundingly defeated red light cameras in a floor vote, but then Rep. Linda Harper-Brown snuck in a "technical" amendment allowing cities to give "civil" fines for certain infractions, which turned out later, unbeknownst to her colleagues, to include red light running. Current Texas law bans giving Class C misdemeanor traffic tickets with cameras, since then the infraction is subject to criminal law which requires the officer writing the ticket to witness the traffic offense.
That nearly changed in 2005, when the Texas House again overwhelmingly voted to get rid of the cameras. But the Texas Senate upheld the civil fine scenario (Houston Democrat Rodney Ellis threatened to fillibuster amendments by Republican senators Estes and Seliger that would have taken the profit motive out of the cameras' financial mechanisms), so now other cities will inevitably want to get in on the cash cow.
That leaves Texas' running against the trend -- other states have been reconsidering red light camera schemes.
Testimony presented in committee cited studies by the state of Texas' own transportation experts predicting a greater reduction in red light running merely by increasing the length of yellow lights to around five seconds. By contrast, where red light cameras have been installed they actually increase injury accidents overall. For cash-strapped city councils, though, the revenue generation potential -- "Garland had issued 46,575 tickets since the cameras were put into service in September 2003," the News reported -- makes the camera systems preferable to less intrusive, systemic fixes, particularly in an era when to advocate raising taxes is a political taboo.
Look for a lot more of these systems to pop up all over Texas soon. I'll try and keep track of them here as they do.